Scientist to get to computer: Lawyer says Mironov still barred from MUSC lab

Dr. Vladimir Mironov has been suspended indefinitely and his lab at the Medical University of South Carolina has been shut down.

The Charleston "meat" scientist whose lab at the Medical University of South Carolina was shut down a week ago is being allowed to return to campus today to access his computer, according to an e-mail his attorney received from an MUSC official.

Dr. Vladimir Mironov, the Russian-educated scientist who had been leading an internationally recognized project to grow in-vitro meat from an animal's stem cells, was suspended indefinitely Feb. 11.

"I just want to do research," Mironov said Thursday. "I want to see my product on the market."

MUSC officials have released no details of the issues that led to the shutdown, which displaced three other researchers from Mironov's meat lab.

Mironov's attorney, Allan Holmes, said he discussed his client's circumstances with an MUSC lawyer

Wednesday. He characterized the situation as "a misunderstanding" but declined to elaborate.

Holmes expected further discussions regarding Mironov's future relationship with the university to take place next week. Mironov's leave includes full pay and benefits. He earns $78,600 for his duties as associate professor, according to the S.C. Budget and Control Board website.

Holmes said MUSC has been "accommodating" in granting Mironov access to his computer, which will be set up in an office on campus today , according to an e-mail from associate research provost Stephen Lanier. A security guard will escort Mironov to his computer, Lanier wrote in the e-mail. He will not be allowed into the meat lab, which remains locked.

Mironov said last week he needed to access his computer to retrieve notes regarding upcoming conferences, including a talk he is scheduled to give Monday in Washington, D.C., at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to a program online. He also is scheduled to speak at a March conference on "Regenerative Medicine" to be held on Hilton Head Island, according to a program.

Mironov's meat lab has attracted national and international exposure in the past month, following the arrival of a new researcher whose work is being funded by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA gave a three-year grant to Nicholas Genovese in an effort to make so-called "cultured meat" available to the general public, hoping to reduce the number of animals killed for human consumption.

Mironov also has been involved in a separate project, a $20 million effort that aims to create human organs from a person's own stem cells. Mironov, along with a Clemson researcher, pioneered the basis for the "tissue biofabrication" project more than a decade ago. The National Science Foundation awarded the five-year, $20 million grant in 2009, Lily Whiteman, a spokeswoman for the federal agency said Thursday.

The project involves staff members at 10 colleges in the state.

It is not clear what Mironov's future role in that effort will be.

An MUSC spokeswoman said Thursday that three researchers will be recruited "for the very same area in which Mironov has his expertise." She could not be reached late Thursday to elaborate.

Whiteman said the National Science Foundation will remain uninvolved in the dispute at MUSC. The situation will be discussed during upcoming reviews of the project, she said.

"It's an issue for them to sort out on the local level," she said. "It will be part of NSF's follow-up and review process to ensure that SCRA is demonstrating proper stewardship of federal dollars."

Researchers involved in the project are required to provide regular updates and annual reports, which include information on how money has been spent, Whiteman said.

Two spokeswomen for South Carolina Research Authority did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.